Joel Michell on quantitative psychology

… when the early quantitative psychologists claimed to measure, they used the term ‘measurement’ for political reasons, not for scientific reasons. They presented psychology as a quantitative science. The secondary gain was admission into the scientific community. When psychometricians claim to be able to measure, they used the term ‘measurement’ not just for political reasons but also for commercial ones. Again, there was no valid scientific reason. Psychometrics were presented as an applied, quantitative science. The secondary gain was the package of economic and social rewards reserved by society for applied scientists. Later, in order to preserve these gains, both the science and the profession adopted the operationist conception of quantification because it disguided this lack of scientific reasons. In the socio-historical context in which psychometrics developed, the economic, social and political costs of abandoning the rhetoric of measurement outweighted the scientific costs of abandoning the method of critical inquiry. (p. 660)

Michell, J. (2000). Normal science, pathological science and psychometrics. Theory & Psychology, 10, 639-667.


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